Your Votes Tallied: The Biggest Tech Flop of All Time

Our readers have spoken. Additional comments ranged from 'Where's Y2k?' to 'I can't believe you nominated Dreamcast!' to 'What constitutes a flop, anyway?'

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These are not flops!

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In addition to suggesting alternative flops, readers took us to task for some of our flop choices. Here are some of our favorite reader comments.

E-books (received 2% of the vote)

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Dumping e-books into your list isn't right: Any technology that's still being developed, and was never that seriously hyped in the first place, shouldn't be considered a flop. E-books are developing slowly because of publishers' resistance to them, but they are developing in a positive direction. Too many formats is a legit problem, but someday they will be as ubiquitous as paperbacks, just as MP3 players have become an integral part of the music market. -- Steve Jordan

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Only someone who's never used an e-paper appliance (like a Sony Reader) or is functionally illiterate would call it useless. I've had the device for 6 months now and wouldn't part with it for the world. I've also had at least half a dozen friends buy it after they saw mine.

-- Calvin

DAT (received 2% of the vote)

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DAT did not survive in the consumer market, but performed well in the professional market for studio recording, etc. I remember Sony made a few DAT decks for the car, and Ford offered them as dealer-installed options for a short time.

However, the DCC (Digital Compact Cassette) was a major bomb. I think Philips was behind the DCC. It featured digital recording equivalent to CDs, on a tape that was the same size as the analog cassette.

The DCC deck could play your analog tapes, but it could only record digitally on a DCC tape. That was its downfall. Since there were no car decks or portable players, recording on a DCC tape was pretty much useless. Therefore, no one bought them and they disappeared.

-- Peter

Dreamcast (received 2% of the vote)

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The Dreamcast made this list? Are you kidding me? With all the home gaming consoles out there that sucked, the DC doesn't deserve to be on this list. Granted, the DC didn't do as well as I had hoped, but it still wasn't nearly as bad as the Commodore 64, Neo Geo CD, Phillips CDI, Panasonic 3DO, Atari 5200, Nokia N'Gage, the Turbo Graffix, and that's just to name a few. -- Anonymous

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How can you put Dreamcast on here without remembering Nintendo's Virtual Boy? The only time Nintendo ever made a system that was universally panned and ignored.

-- Anonymous

Virtual reality (received 5% of the vote)

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True, the headsets never caught on at home and the name became a bit of a joke. However, I think that it's somewhat incorrect to say that the core of virtual reality, real-time 3-D environments, have failed to catch on.

The phenomenal rise of affordable 3-D acceleration hardware and the demands of 3-D games have pushed the home computer industry from its humble low-fidelity beginnings to machines that can render fantastically complex graphics at 60 fps and at resolutions that 10 years ago were unheard of. Spreadsheets and word processors don't need that kind of power; 3-D games do.

That is virtual reality; we just call it 3-D graphics now, just like we did before the term was coined. If I could pop back in time 10 or 15 years and tell you what we take for granted now, you'd say that I was mad (time travelers often get that reaction).

-- Tim Lewis

OS/2 (received 2% of the vote)

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OS/2 wasn't a flop -- especially with the release of OS/2 WARP. I used to use this OS daily, and before Microsoft was able to release Win 95. Even after the release of Win 95, OS/2 had it beat in graphics, UI, and ease of use. What really caused the demise of OS/2 was IBM. IBM has a reputation as a cutting-edge, innovative company; the problem is they don't promote their own products very well at all. At least they have finally accepted this (look at Pixie Dust) and create the products and then license them for other companies to actually sell and market. Too bad they didn't come up with this sooner; we might not be so deep into the MS world that we are now. -- AllenB

NeXT (received 0% of the vote)

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If it wasn't for NeXT, we wouldn't have OS X today, and we probably wouldn't have Intel chips in Macs either (because of the Intel port of NextStep, which persisted through Apple's purchase of NextStep). So even though the company was a flop, [the technology] wasn't. Shouldn't be on the list. -- Anonymous

Apple Newton (received 2% of the vote)

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It seems that [all] journalist hacks who can't think up their own stories claim that the Newton was a spectacular failure. If this is the case, then tell me, how many PDAs from the '90s do you know that are still in use and supported by a vibrant community of dedicated users? ... Spend some time on the NewtonTalk list and see the hundreds of e-mails that flow through this repository of all things Newton every day!

This vibrant Newton community has banded together and extended the usability of the Newton to "modern" standards by adopting technology that didn't even exist in the '90s. Bluetooth, MP3, Wi-Fi, Encryption, GPS ... these technologies are used daily by a vibrant Newton community who delight in the ease of use of the interface and the intuitive nature of the OS, and the second nature of the links between soups (data sources for the applications), which to this day do not exist in more modern PDAs.

-- Tech Ed

The paperless office and speech recognition (received 9% and 2% of the vote, respectively)

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I personally believe that paper utilization will gradually diminish over the next 50 years. I'm not sure if we will ever reach a "paperless society (or office)" but I do think we will continue to move in that direction. The gradual increases in the cost of paper, storage cost and delivery cost will push society in that direction. Many magazines are currently available for delivery in digital format. Most newspapers have Web sites. I personally try not to print e-mails and PDF documents. I'll go with the 50-year estimate. I'll look for the Computerworld article addressing this (digital of course) 50 years from today. -- JK

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I just read with amusement your story about technology and concepts that were highly hyped and flopped. Having paralyzed arms and hands for the past 45 years leads me to believe that two of those concepts have not failed me. I can still type with one finger but have been unable to handle paper or write for about 10 years. I keep thousands of documents on my computers that I can find and send with ease. My working world is virtually paperless except for those folks that still require me to fax things.

On the other hand, starting with Voice Navigator II through several systems leading to Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 that I'm using to dictate this e-mail, I have written three novels and do almost all of my office work with my voice. I think everyone, with a little patience, can benefit from the 150 words per minute and perfect spelling of voice recognition.

-- Ron Hull (via e-mail)
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